Cardiac Alert Service Brings More Rapid Life-Saving Treatment to Heart Attack Patients in SWLA

CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital and Acadian Ambulance today announced that they have introduced "Cardiac Alert" to the region. Cardiac Alert is designed to provide rapid life-saving emergency treatment for people who suffer certain heart attack.

With the new technology, Acadian transports heart attack patients by ambulance directly to CHRISTUS St. Patrick. While en route, highly trained EMS paramedics connect the patient to a sophisticated 12-lead electrocardiogram and transmits a copy to the Emergency Department.

Tressy Bergeron, RN, BSN, Director of the Emergency Department says that if the Emergency Department Physician determines the patient is having a heart attack, the St. Patrick heart team is alerted and they begin preparation for rapid intervention in the cardiac catheterization lab.  This is done even before the patient arrives to the Emergency Department.

"The time saved by this process could be the difference between a good outcome and a bad outcome," Bergeron says.  "We know the sooner a blockage in the heart is opened, the better the chances are for a good outcome."

Jerry Romero, Vice President of Operations for Acadian Ambulance, agrees that an important benefit of Cardiac Alert is that it begins in the field where paramedics connect the patient to a 12-lead ECG. The ECG information is interpreted by the paramedic and transmitted to the Emergency Room physician who then initiates a Cardiac Alert, if appropriate. This sets off a chain of events that prepares physicians and staff to receive the patient.

"The strategy is to identify the acute myocardial infarction in the field so we can alert the hospital to be ready when the ambulance arrives," Romero said.

Bergeron adds, "Now that we are able to receive the EKG prior to patient arrival, we can give the same quality heart care as always, only faster."

The standard treatment for a heart attack is angioplasty.  This is performed in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab by inserting a tiny, specialized catheter that can be inflated at the point of the blockage in order to reopen the artery.

Cardiac Alert will help save critical time in the patient's treatment thereby promoting healthy heart muscle and improving patient outcomes. Studies show that the ability to prepare a patient for intervention prior to arrival to the hospital decreases the amount of time the heart goes without oxygen.

"Time is critical," Dr. Turner said. "The sooner we can open a blocked artery, the better off the patient will be."

Dr. Turner said that in order for Cardiac Alert to be effective, several things need to be in place: Sophisticated equipment, a high level of paramedic expertise, streamlined processes and advanced preparation, and a commitment to quick response from cardiologists and catheterization staff.

The CHRISTUS St. Patrick heart and emergency teams already exceed national benchmarks for their ability to rapidly diagnose and treat heart attack patients. The national benchmark is less than 90 minutes, and St. Patrick on average is less than 55 minutes.

"The time it takes to diagnose and begin treatment of a heart attack is significantly reduced even more – saving precious time. And that saves heart muscle, Dr. Turner added.

Cardiac Alert represents a change in philosophy nationwide within the medical industry. For many years the traditional standard of care for heart attack patients was to be treated with clot-busting drugs until a catheterization procedure could be scheduled. In the late 1990s, medical studies found that patients treated immediately by catheterization tend to have fewer complications, less heart damage and were less likely to suffer a related stroke.

As a result of the studies, hospitals around the nation have begun to implement procedures to minimize the time it takes for heart attack patients to receive the life saving angioplasty procedure.  Cardiac Alert is one of those procedures and CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital is the only facility in the Lake Charles area to offer it.

Etch Shaheen, M.D., CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital's Emergency Department Medical Director, said "this is great news for our patients and our community.  Cardiac Alert enables us to provide more timely care than would otherwise be available in our community."

Dr. Shaheen adds, "Until now, this technological advancement was unavailable to patients in Lake Charles.  But through the joint efforts of CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital and Acadian Ambulance, Cardiac Alert is now a reality and should translate into better care and better outcomes.  The Emergency Physicians and staff at St. Patrick Hospital are excited to be involved with the Cardiac Alert program."